Martin was still sleeping by the time the bus reached his house’s door. He heard the inevitable honk of the horn, the angry shouts of teenagers inside the yellow vehicle, and his eyes flew open. He was going to be late for school--again. Immediately he got up and started to get ready, shuffling through mounds of clothes in his closet. He picked out the first things he saw: a blue shirt, camouflage shorts, red shoes, and long, green socks, throwing them on as he did so. Then he heard the unavoidable and disheartening low rumble of the bus growling out of the street. He sat himself on the edge of his low bed. Another day that he would be late for school--he was as inadvertent with both his time management and his responsibilities as his father had been when he had abandoned his family. This had happened when Martin had been a small child, no older than seven years old, and it had carved a hole in his heart. He didn’t care any longer, though. It was no use grieving over something that had happened years ago, and either way, he had never seen much of his father anyway. He’d never been home, leaving Martin, his mother, and his sister to live alone.
He spaced out for a few moments and then jumped up. He was too lazy to take a shower and he headed downstairs, where his mother was just now preparing breakfast. He wasn’t the only one who slept in. Strange, he thought. His mother was never late to anything, and she was always adamant about the importance of organization and watchfulness. “You never know what might be lying just around the corner, ready to pounce,” she’d say.
He sprung down the stairs, taking two at a time and nearly tripping when he got to the bottom landing. He turned left and headed for the kitchen, the smell of warm, creamy pancakes wafting through the air. His mother was sitting down on one of the chairs facing the opposite wall, waiting to turn over the pancakes. Martin knew that by now they’d probably be burnt. It was almost routine to burn pancakes in his home, almost like a family tradition.
She didn’t hear him approaching.
“Morning, Mom,” Martin said.
“What? Oh--hi. How are you?” She asked.
“I’m fine, but the bus left without me again. I slept in and didn’t what time it was. How come you didn’t wake me up?”
“Sorry sweetie, I had slept in as well. It won’t happen again, I promise. Okay?”
“Okay.” But he knew that it would indeed happen again. Ah, well.
She looked exhausted and had dark bags under her eyes. She was staring at nothing in particular, apparently lost in thought and unaware of her surroundings. Martin asked, “Everything okay, Mom?”
“Yes, Martin, I’m fine. You don’t need to worry about me,” she snapped all of a sudden. Martin looked taken aback and he took his seat on one of the chairs surrounding the small, white table.
“All right Mom, I was just asking. No need to get all prickly,” he paused and took a look around the kitchen. “Where’s Emily?” He asked, noting her absence.
“Oh, I don’t know, Martin. She’s a grown lady now, no need to worry about her either. What’s with you today?” She said angrily.
Martin looked at her, confused, and said, “What’s wrong with you?” He wondered what she was so angry about. He tried recalling what they had been about doing last night but couldn’t remember seeing her at home. Weird, he thought. “You know what, never mind. I think I’d better leave. Don’t want to miss out on an entire class again.”
“Go, then. The car’s not working so you’re going to need to walk.”
He stood up and quickly grabbed one of the pancakes that were cooking. It was hot and it burned his hands. He cursed and walked towards the front door, scoffing down the pancake as he did so.
Once he opened it he looked around at his surroundings. Everything around him was pearly white, covered in a sheet of fluffy, white snow. It was winter time again, and he loved it. He loved the snow and he loved taking long walks, trudging through the cold environment. He told himself that he needed to go to school but, by fault of his naïve immaturity and pervasive laziness he was willingly forced to go the other way. He headed for the woods, his favorite place to be in when it was winter.
He pushed through the snow that entered his shoes through the small openings and melted as he took each step, crunching the snow beneath him. The snow was about a foot high and there had been a snow storm the previous night, although it hadn’t lasted for very long. It was freezing and the moisture clung to his pants as he walked through. A frigid, piercing, cold pain wrapped itself around his shins as it always did when it was winter. The feeling was sharply painful but over time he’d adjusted to the cold and as he unfocused his mind, his thoughts wandered and the cold became a given, almost imperceptible to his mind. He looked around at the houses and the forest. The roofs were covered in snow, clumps of it plopping down onto the houses’ gardens, making a soft noise as it made impact with the sheathed grass.
Martin loved the serenity of winter, the breathless silence as the wind flew past in cold gusts and froze his cheeks. The calm of the air and the unbroken peace as he walked past helped clear his mind and he took a deep, long breath.
The road cut off into a dead end a few yards ahead of where Martin was standing, leading into the dark woods. Inside there was some snow strewn about in uneven patterns, giving clear way to a dirt and leaf-filled path. Martin peered inside and looked back at his house. He made his decision and stepped into the dense undergrowth. He trudged through piles of leaves and hopped over veins of tree roots that snaked through the ground. Small animals made noises as he approached, some scuttling away and others chirping in the frosty cold. The trees had given shelter to the forest the previous night and little snow had sneaked its way inside the woods. As he continued walking through he spotted a small pond to his right, almost frozen with chips of ice covering most of the water. For a moment he was tempted to stick his fingers inside it and see how cold it was, but he turned the idea over once more and decided otherwise.
Far off in the distance, as the trees slowly became more spread apart and less abundant, he could barely make out a subtle inclination that very sloped steadily upwards, the top of the crest hidden behind the tall leaves. He set off thither.
Slowly he came closer to his destination until he could finally make out the zenith of the rugged hillside. There were large boulders spread loosely around the hill. The sun shone down on his face, blocking his view and causing him to see colors after looking away. He waited a few moments and steadied himself. Slowly, without looking up at the sun, he began his ascent towards the top of the hill, after which he would sit there and look out at the neighborhood and surrounding houses, a perfect view rendered possible by the high top. He had done so before and he could stay there for long hours, watching the birds fly by or the sun drift out of sight, orange and melancholic in the sky, peaceful and resonating a calm effect. Martin loved coming here, and sometimes he would bring his friends with him, soon having to leave due to their short attention spans. Although he greatly enjoyed being with his friends, he preferred spending his time alone on this desolate yet accessible hillside.
The small mountain was covered in snow and Martin was struggling to get to the top. Oftentimes he had to stop and catch his breath, continuing his journey a minute later and stopping once again after another thirty seconds. The snow was already icy, causing him to slip and have to grab hold of one of the boulders that were closest to him. Small rocks jutted from beneath the earth, and with the augmented difficulty of both obstacles, he found himself constantly slipping stopping to rest for a few moments.
Suddenly the soles of his feet gave away and he fell hard on the rough and snowy bottom of the hill. Before he had fallen his ankle had twisted, causing him to lose balance and slip. He groaned loudly and cursed under his breath. A blinding pain surged from his right ankle. He held it up with his hands, clasping it tightly and jerking his body back and forth to relieve himself from the pain. And then all of a sudden he found himself slipping even further, down the hillside at a steady speed. The bottom lay a long ways down and felt around wildly for something to grab on. He desperately clung to anything he could hold on to, but apart from the small rocks that did little to nothing to prevent his fast descent, there were no boulders in range to stop his fall. He felt his ankle twist even further multiple times and he cried out in pain, now frantically grabbing for anything. Snow flew into his eyes and mouth, causing him to lose his sight and cough from the water that entered his nostrils.
Before he knew it the bottom of the hill was a few yards away, and by now he was diving head first into unknown hindrances. He flung his arms forwards so as to prevent anything from hitting him in the head, but it was no use, and he soon made vehement impact with one of the large boulders that lay ahead, quickly stopping the pain and turning everything around him to black.